Networking is critical in our day and age. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements, emails, status updates and sales pitches; it is vital to maintain personal relationships with professionals to stand out from the crowd. Business networking is not a new idea, put simply; it’s how we build trusting relationships with people of similar interest and talents in order to form a bond that is beneficial to both parties.

In today’s online world, many people network via Email or LinkedIn. The most important thing to remember about networking is that any person you meet can be a stepping-stone toward reaching your goals. Whether you’re talking to a professor at your university or a family friend that works in your interested field, you should always act professionally and respectfully, and be ready to talk about yourself!

Networking is a great way to get your name heard. We all know the saying ‘It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know’. Yes, this is true. But it’s mostly about who knows you (and what they think). Business cards are seen as a little old fashioned, but they are a successful way to market yourself. It’s a great idea to carry a few of your business cards with you at all times.

If we don’t converse and chat with other people, we miss the opportunity to build a base of vital contacts and possible network connections. Starting off can be tough, but don’t worry everyone starts somewhere.

When you’re meeting people face to face, look them in the eye, repeat their name, listen to what they have to say, and suggest topics that are easy to discuss. Be a conversationalist, not a talker. Great marketers are good at making other people feel special. When you’re marketing yourself, be sure not to have the spotlight on you the entire time. Find out what they enjoy, what their passions are and how you connect.

It’s important not only to make these connections, but also to follow through and maintain contact: shoot an email, a phone call or a LinkedIn connection to keep communication flowing. It’s best to get in touch within 48 hours of the event to show you’re interested and available, and reference something you discussed, so your contact remembers you. Now, go ahead and get networking!